Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mich Café, Best Lifestyle Blog at Beirut SMAs

Thank you, thank you, and thank you…
Mich Café has won the Beirut Social Media Award for Best Lifestyle Blog.
Thank you to all those who voted for the blog, read it, come back and believe in it.Thank you also for all the messages I have been receiving on Twitter and Facebook.
And thank you also to all the judges.
I couldn’t make it to Beirut for the ceremony last night, but followed it on Twitter and celebrated with friends in Dubai.
Celebrating in Dubai!
Liliane, Samer, Figo, Kinan, Khaled, Kamal, Abderrahman, Bahaa, George, Mher and Maisa were there to cheer me on.
Ambassador Tom Fletcher presents my award to Youssef Chaker
I was also honored to learn through his tweet that British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher had “virtually” presented me with the award and overwhelmed me by his kind words.

Mich Cafe had also been nominated in the Blog of the Year category, which was won by my friend Najib Mitri for his BlogBaladi.
I think the biggest winner is Social Media in Lebanon, which is doing wonders for the community and the country. With better and faster Internet, it could do even more.
The Social Media Awards (SMA) allow the Lebanese online community to nominate, vote for and award bloggers, journalists, content creators, community managers, public figures, social media users and celebrities for their efforts in communication and online creation.
The SMA is the brainchild of the American University of Beirut’s Online Collaborative (AUBOC) in partnership with Beirut popular RAGMAG Magazine to honor individuals and organizations that demonstrated an exceptional presence in social media in Lebanon. (You can view the full list of nominees on RAGMAG's website.)
The SMAs can only get bigger and better.
Congratulations to the AUBOC team and to RAGMAG Magazine and I already look forward to next year’s second edition!
The Social Media Awards site said the total number of votes cast during the month was 100,947.
In the hope of winning an award, I had sent the SMA team the following video:

Watching my video at the SMAs (Photo by Yasmine Hajjar)
Congratulations to everyone who was nominated and to all the winners:

1. Best Business Blog:
2. Best Commercial District on Social Media:
3. Best Start-up on Social Media:
Tickle My Brain
4. Best Facebook Application: Novo
5. Best Facebook Campaign/Page: Lebanese Memes
6. Most Creative Instagram Account: LiveLoveBeirut
7. Most Engaging Diplomat/Politician on Twitter: Ziad Baroud
8. Best Lifestyle Blog: Mich Café
9. Best Food & Beverage Brand: Almaza
10. Best Pub/bar on Social Media: Feb30
11. Best NGO/Organization on Twitter: Donner Sang Compter
12. Best Design for a Social Media Campaign: Almaza
13. Best Fashion Brand on Social Media: Vero Moda ME
14. Best Food Blog: No Garlic No Onions
15. Best Fashion Blog: PlushBeirut
16. Most Engaging Person on Twitter: Anis Tabet
17. Best Technology Blog: Microsoftoholic
18. Most Engaging YouTube Channel: Cheyef 7alak
19. Most Engaging Media Personality on Twitter: Neshan
20. Best News Blog: Beirut Spring
21. Most Engaging YouTube Video: Beirut Duty Free Flash Mob
22. Best NGO/Community on Social Media: Lebanese Memes
23. Best Non-Arabic Vocal Artist: Anthony Touma
24. Best Restaurant, Café or Bakery on Social Media: Roadster Diner
25. Best Band on Social Media: Mashrou3 Leila
26. Best Personal Blog: Gino’s Blog
27. Best Hotel on Social Media: Phoenicia Hotel
28. Most Engaging Celebrity on Twitter: Haifa Wehbe
29. Best Media Personality on Social Media: Zaven 
30. Best Business on Social Media: Roadster Diner
31. Best Integrated Campaign: Cheyef 7alak
32. Blog of the Year: BlogBaladi
33. Social Campaigning Magnet Award: Lana El Sahley’s L’Armoire De Lana

Related posts:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Armenian Genocide: Echoes of the dream

The Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, and Bikfaya, Lebanon (inset) by Shant Demirdjian
Today -- April 24 -- commemorates the Armenian Genocide committed in 1915-1916 by the Ottoman Empire’s “Young Turk” government.
Mich Café commemorates the Genocide with testimony of what the day means to those who survived and their offspring.
This year, I chose to cede the Mich Café platform to the young generation of Armenian college students, allowing them to express in their own words what the day means to them.
They are in their late teens at Levon & Sophia Hagopian College.
The college was founded in 1964 in the heart of Bourj Hammoud in Beirut, Lebanon.  Its slogan is “work ennobles.”
It has 195 students under Principal Vicken Avakian and 35 teachers. The college follows the official Lebanese government curriculum, supplemented by the educational plan of the Armenian National Schools.
My friend Shant Demirdjian (@ShantDotMe), who featured in Mich Café’s commemoration last year, teaches computer science at Levon & Sophia and helped me get testimonies from four students.
Shant is also a web developer and a photographer in his spare time. His pictures of Armenia can  be viewed at his blog site, – My Photo Blog.
Ninety-eight years on, the Armenian Genocide is still a subject matter that hits a raw nerve with Armenians worldwide.
Roughly half the Ottoman Empire’s 2,500,000 Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide through wholesale massacres and deportations by dint of forced marches.

Armenians around the globe commemorate the tragedy on April 24, the day in 1915 when 250-300 Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers and professionals in Constantinople – the present-day Istanbul -- were rounded up, deported and killed.
The Ottoman military at that time uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, without food or water, to the desert of what is now Syria.
Since then, the pomegranate was adopted as a symbol for Armenians.
The narrative is that during the 1915 Genocide and exodus, pomegranate was the only food mothers could find to feed their offspring. Those marching could also count the days with the pomegranate seeds. It is said that each fruit, however big or small, holds 365 seeds!  
So how does the young generation feel about the Genocide?
Gashavan in Dilijan, Hribsime Church and Noravank Monastary in Armenia. Photos by Liliane Assaf
J.H. – Technical Baccalaureate, 3rd year (12th grade technical or BT3)
The Armenian Genocide is not a simple issue that has preoccupied us. It is a collective Armenian feeling. Actually, it is the root of our existence. The grief will never disappear.
Put yourself in our ancestors’ shoes: your life is swept away, your loved ones are slaughtered in front of your eyes and all your dreams are crushed.
What is left is to pick up the pieces and create a new life -- one that is the reason of my existence.
Now, my duty is to honor the memory of those killed during the Genocide and be their voice, lost among the shadows of death.
Our ancestors had a dream, a hope to continue existing. We are the echoes of that dream.
Marita Bardakjian -- Technical Baccalaureate, 3rd year (BT3)
The Genocide was once a nightmare to those who had to suffer the monstrous tortures of the Ottoman Empire. Today, it separates us from all other nations.
We have been reborn from the sand and the darkness where our blood was shed.
A price has to be paid, and someday we will reclaim what was rightfully ours because those who have been in total darkness will not give up after seeing the light.
A pomegranate tree overlooking Lake Sevan, Armenia. Photo by Liliane Assaf
Hratch – Secondary 2nd class (11th grade or SEC II)
Silence behind the gates of destiny is louder than our scream.
It is said that every individual's destiny is written. Written by whom: By the man in the sky, or by the bearded one?
Was it our destiny to be slaughtered and killed? Or was it pure coincidence that 1.5 million people faced the same destiny?
We screamed, we prayed… but the prayers went unanswered.
We were thrown out from our lands; we saw our houses burnt to the ground. And still… there was no answer from heaven.
Where was the world when our children begged to see their mothers one last time?
Where was humanity when the evil Ottomans were burning our churches with our people inside praying for mercy, not from their persecutors, but from our Maker, who chose not to be on our side?
Nancy – Secondary 2nd class (11th grade or SEC II)
It is not merely the tradition, language, mentality, culture or lifestyle that makes us, Armenians, different. Yet our determination and consciousness of whom we are does put an analogy with the rest.
Years, decades and centuries will not be virtuous enough to wipe out our people’s will and a century is not enough to let our anguish fade away.
Ninety-eight years isn’t threatening; it won’t make us oblivious of the “inhumane deeds” meted on us. Instead, we will reconstruct our root and anchor.
No massacre or genocide can eradicate people like us.
We fight back through our mentality, not by butchery.

Related posts:
‘We are still the mountain’ – The Boston Globe, April 14, 2013
Traditional Armenian Dresses – Mher Krikorian’s Facebook

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Syrian guests in a Turkish shed

Um Maher (left) and Mariam
It is always a difficult choice in times of war: stay and die or flee and become a refugee – at times for life.
The revolution in Syria, now into its third year, has uprooted up to 1.5 million people and internally displaced another four million, making Syrians one of the largest urban-refugee populations in the world.
Mariam made this hard choice.
After losing her husband in the fighting, she was forced to flee, with her eight children in tow, the ceaseless government airstrikes on the Idlib area in northwestern Syria where they lived.
The nine crossed into Turkey on foot and had the good fortune of knocking at the door of a humble farmhouse sitting right on the Syrian-Turkish border.
Um Maher, the Turkish woman farm owner, took pity on them and offered them to stay in the only portion of space available in her livestock shed. 
Alarabiya TV presenter and journalist Rima Maktabi unearthed the tiny farmhouse for a human-interest feature and an on camera chat with Syrian refugee Mariam and her Turkish benefactor Um Maher.
The chicken, the cow, the shed and Rima Maktabi chatting to Um Maher and Mariam
A three-minute video aired this week by Alarabiya TV shows Maktabi, a Lebanese media figure recognized for her coverage of the 2006 Lebanon war, visiting the tiny farmhouse. She gives the livestock shed the once-over, focusing on the section where the woman refugee from Idlib and her brood sleep, cook, eat, wash and bathe, before conversing with Mariam and her eldest son Khaled and with Um Maher.
“We fled the airstrikes. We had no place to hide. We just left carrying nothing,” says Mariam.
“Who helps you now?” Maktabi wonders.
Mariam breaks into tears
“Here? Charitable people,” Mariam replies while her children jump all over her before she breaks into tears.
“When they give us something, we eat. Otherwise we don’t. God looks after us. What can we do?”
Though a shed, they have a “roof” over their head thanks to the big-hearted Um Maher, a Turk who speaks broken Arabic.
Maktabi asks Um Maher if she charges Mariam any rent.
“No, no. Look, they have nothing. How could I charge them rent?” she replies raising her hands and pointing at Mariam and her children. “They’re hungry, God help them! Are we expected to take their soul? They’re hungry. Look, they are all young…”
Um Maher’s shed, cow and chickens are all she owns.
Mariam's eldest son Khaled tends to the cow
Mariam’s eldest son, Khaled, tends the cow and chickens with his sister in way of repaying Um Maher.
“They feed us and we feed them,” he says, adding: “But I miss my country, my home, my school, my relatives and my people.”
Mariam baking bread
Only when do-gooders bring her flour is Mariam able to bake bread in a primitive outdoors mud wood-burning oven.
Um Maher’s welcome to Mariam’s refugee family is all the more touching because she is sharing the little she owns.
Her kindness and generosity is also a testimony to how little help can save lives.
The following is Rima Maktabi's full report on Alarabiya:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Beirut SMAs: Did you vote for Mich Café?

Did you vote yet? What? You don’t know?
Mich Café was nominated in two out of 33 categories at the Beirut Social Media Awards 2013. (See Mich Café up for 2 Social Media awards)
It is a great honor to be recognized by the virtual community and I am so proud to be a finalist in the Blog of the Year and Lifestyle Blog groups:
Blog of the Year (Category #1)
  • Blog Baladi -- 
  • Gino's Blog -- 
  • Beirut Spring -- 
  • Hummus Nation -- 
  • Separate State of Mind -- 
  • Mich Café --
  • Beirut Boy --
Best Lifestyle Blog (Category #4)
  • Mich Café |
  • Let's tlk abt movies -- 
  • Homos Libnani -- 
  • Nads Reviews -- 
  • Architecture Lab -- 
  • If the bag Fits -- 
Online voting for the finalists goes on until April 25. You can vote via Facebook or Twitter at
The awards ceremony takes place at the Phoenicia Hotel on April 29.
With Jen on our road trip to Sidon (11/2010)
Unfortunately, I can’t travel to Beirut for what promises to be an exciting gala. My friend Jennifer Haddad (@Jennhaddad), will represent me in case Mich Café makes it to the finals.
Jen is very much part of Mich Café. Some of my favorite posts about Lebanon were written thanks to her taking me on road trips across Lebanon – to Sidon, Tripoli, Byblos, Oyoun al-Samak and Ain Anoub.
The Social Media Awards allow the online community to nominate, vote for and award bloggers, journalists, content creators, community managers, public personalities, social media users and celebrities for their efforts in communication and online creation.
As I always say, it is mostly thanks to the vibrant, active, friendly and imaginative Lebanese online community that I started Mich Café.
While the competition is stiff in both categories, I would like to believe Mich Café has a strong chance because it is a journey of love and passion for the people, places and topics I care about.
Mich Café is I, and as it says on all my social media bios: “Just happy… the rest is not important!” That is precisely how I feel and exactly how this is reflected in Mich Café.
This blog is also about reflecting on issues outwith the local and regional box and spreading my wings further afield -- for instance: to lobby for education, protest against SOPA/PIPA, back Internet freedom in Jordan, and campaign on behalf of prisoners of conscience in Syria, against female genital mutilation, violence against women, and especially rape, because rape is rape!
Some of my favorite posts were written during my annual trips to Lebanon.
One post in particular, Beirut: Walking in Burj Hammoud,” published in December 2010, has been viewed at least 30 times every single day since.
In Love is blind... I list, as much as I can, the reasons why I love Beirut. I could add one or two every 24 hours.

While visiting, I try to cover as many places and events as I can so as to acquaint my Lebanese, Emirati, American, British, Norwegian, German, French, Turkish, Canadian and other readers with the Lebanon I love.
These posts include:
The places, people and stories in these posts, reflect the beauty of Lebanon, its people, its culture and its food. It is the Lebanon I love and hope to go back to, while most are trying to leave it.
Mich Café is also a place I celebrate my family and friends:
Dubai, my new home is also top of the list:
The Social Media Awards 2013 is the brainchild of the American University of Beirut’s Online Collaborative (AUBOC) in partnership with Beirut popular RAGMAG Magazine.
The awards are meant to honor individuals and organizations that have demonstrated an exceptional presence in social media in Lebanon. (You can view the full list of nominees on RAGMAG's website.)
Do exercise your right to vote in the “Republic of Social Media.”
Thank you in advance to the Social Media Awards and AUBOC team as well as to RAGMAG Magazine and the judges.